First preliminary results have shown incumbent Sergei Sobyanin the lead in the city's mayoral race. Opponent and Putin-critic Alexei Navalny has already cried foul at the early results.
Kremlin-backed incumbent Sobyanin (pictured) won just over 57.77 percent of the the vote, according to the city's election commission on Sunday evening. Opposition leader Navalny won only 21.56 percent, it said, a sharp drop from early exit polls showing he had won at least 29 percent of the vote.
Earlier on Sunday evening, Navalny's campaign had disputed the early election results. Sobyanin had only garnered 46 percent of the vote, falling just short of the 50 percent threshold for an outright win, according to the campaign's own exit polls. It gave Navalny 35.6 percent.
"Our exit poll data undeniably show that there will be a second round of this election," Navalny said speaking to reporters in Moscow on Sunday evening.
If the exit polls prove true, Sobyanin will have garnered a victory in the first round, ruling out the possibility of a run-off.
Navalny has been the first opposition leader able to stand in a high-profile election in Russia in many years. He was sentenced to prison for five years on July 18 on charges of embezzlement, but was released the next day following a complaint by prosecutors.
The 37-year-old opposition blogger helped organize mass demonstrations against the ruling party United Russia in 2011. He says the charges against him and subsequent jail sentence stem from his efforts to call attention to high-level corruption.
kms/ccp (AFP, Reuters, dpa)